Dickson: The magic of peer tutors in middle school

Mar 4, 2024, 1:56 PM

Oquirrh Hills Middle School shown, peer tutors there work with students with special needs...

Oquirrh Hills Middle School in Riverton is pictured on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

Want to renew your faith in the future? Go observe peer tutors in a special education class.

Peer tutors are students of the same age in the same school who work one-on-one with students with special needs in their school.

I recently spent the afternoon substitute teaching in a special education class at Oquirrh Hills Middle School. What I witnessed that day will stay with me always.

There were 13 children in the classroom with various needs. I had several students who had Down Syndrome, like my own daughter Laurel. There were various other challenges present, some more profound than others, but all were beautiful children doing their best.

Each time the bell rang, a new group of peer tutors would appear.

They checked in on their computers and then would go to sit next to the students they worked with. The boys would high-five the boys they were matched with like they were teammates on the basketball squad together. The girls would hug and sometimes dance.

Whatever assignment we were working on, whether it was a craft assignment or watching a video and then writing what we saw, the peer tutors stayed with their students, guiding them, helping them and praising them.

When the bell rang, I could tell it was hard for some of the kids to see their peer tutor go.

Lunch in a middle school cafeteria

If it’s been a while since you’ve had lunch in a middle school cafeteria, I recommend you visit. It’s every bit the trip you might remember from your own middle school days and more.

We took our students to the table against the far wall where they always sat. The teachers helped the students and made sure their milk cartons were opened and they had what they needed.

When the room filled with hundreds of 12-15-year-olds, the noise level went sky high, but then the magic happened.

Some of the peer tutors who had been with the students earlier in the day came over to say “hello.” They were friends. You could feel the genuine camaraderie between them.

What our kids are learning

I read a lot in the news about what our kids are learning, what books are in their libraries and what facts they are taught in history.

What I want you to know is that some of the most important learning in our middle schools is happening in the special education classrooms.

When I commented to the other teachers how impressed I was with the peer tutors, they told me that some of these students struggle in the rest of their classes, but not here. Here, they know how to be teachers, friends and helpers. Here, they are needed and their skills are so admirable.

It only took a few short hours before my heart was filled with the spirit of that school, of the students there, and of the magic of peer tutoring.

All of the generalizations of selfish young kids on their cellphones went out the window and were replaced with human kindness and brotherly love.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View on KSL NewsRadio. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


ksl movie show host steve salles next to widow clicquot movie poster...

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Widow Clicquot’ explores one of the earliest successful international businesswomen

KSL Movie Show host Steve Salles says the 'Widow Clicquot' explores one of the earliest successful international businesswomen.

10 hours ago

Robot Dreams...

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Robot Dreams’ is a beautiful, simple film

Steve Salles says "Robot Dreams" is a beautiful, simple film that is a powerful story about friendships, fate and the need for companionship.

8 days ago

dating at her age cohosts caitlyn johnston and debbie dujanovic stand side by side...

Debbie Dujanovic

Dujanovic: Who pays for the date?

One survey found that men feel obligated to pay on the first date, and just about as many women agreed. But why? And, what happens after that?

15 days ago

dating at her age cohosts caitlyn johnston and debbie dujanovic stand side by side...

Caitlyn Johnston

Johnston: Real human connection feels unnatural. I want to change that

"Dating at Her Age" co-host Caitlyn Johnston says, "My first attempts at human connection in the wild were not an immediate success."

21 days ago

Horizon An American Saga poster next to ksl movie show host steve salles...

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1’ is a raw view of the American West’s expansion

"Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1" delivered a raw, brutally honest, rugged, determined view of the expansion of the American West.

22 days ago

Follow @voicebyhughes...

Tim Hughes

Hughes: Dad and daughter close in on life goal

This is a daddy daughter story that started in a magical place and led to even more magic!

23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Dickson: The magic of peer tutors in middle school